190. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Appointment of a Secretary General

1. After our talk yesterday on the problem of replacing Hammarskjold, we have analyzed the various avenues open to us. For the time being, the best course seemed to be a holding operation which essentially would have USUN restate our previous position, and an instruction in this sense was sent this morning. (A copy of the instruction is attached (Tab A)).2

In view of the complexity of the problem, and since we did not give USUN the authority which they requested to acquiesce in the naming of seven Under Secretaries as special advisors to the new Secretary General, I would like in this memorandum to explain the major ingredients of the problem which set the framework for this instruction.

2. The points of disagreement with the USSR, or at least those points which require further classification, fall into the following major categories:

(a) Number of Under Secretaries

Zorin has stood fast on the Soviet position that there should be either four Under Secretaries (USSR, U.S., Afro-Asian and Latin American) or seven, adding one Western European, one Afro-Asian and one Eastern European to the foregoing. We oppose the first formula because it does not provide representation for Western Europe, one of the most important groups in the Assembly, and the latter because it gives a disproportionate amount of representation to the Communists in the “inner group” around the SYG. Moreover, by accepting the addition of an “Eastern European”, there is a greater flavor of political representation—as opposed to geographic—than we would like to see. At the same time, this distinction is admittedly fuzzy, and most of our best friends have taken this aspect of the problem less seriously than we. (The UK Delegate in New York has contingency instructions that would permit him to agree to seven Under Secretaries, but not to four.)

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Thus the main difference between us and the USSR has tended to focus more and more on the question of numbers. The most relevant recent cables are attached (Tab B).3

(b) The nature of the statement to be made by the next Secretary-General

In our last meeting with the USSR, Zorin said the Secretary General should state he would have a group of principal advisers at the Under Secretary level with whom he would work in close collaboration and consultation in an effort “to decide in agreement, or in other words in a spirit of mutual understanding with them the important questions concerning discharging the functions imposed on the Secretary General by the Charter.” We find the words “to decide in agreement” unacceptable, and USUN believes the Soviets will drop this phrase.

(c) Timing and Circumstances of SYG Statement

The Soviets have abandoned their demand that the new SYG should make a statement of his intentions in the Security Council or in the General Assembly before his election and have accepted our view that any statement must come after the GA election. However, they have added a new requirement that the GA President should make an approving statement after hearing the statement of the SYG referring “to general opinion of the General Assembly” in this connection. It is clearly the Soviet intent to seek by this approach to establish the principle that the SYG should organize his office and operate on the basis of a consensus of opinion in the General Assembly. I believe this demand should be resisted since it would derogate from the authority of the SYG as specified in the Charter.

(d) Title of New SYG

The Soviets have consistently sought to designate the new appointee as “interim SYG” whereas we have always preferred that the qualification “interim” not be added to his title. However, we are both agreed that a satisfactory term for the new man would be until April 1963 when Hammarskjold’s term was scheduled to expire. The Soviets would prefer to have the maximum amount of formal SC action taken in connection with the appointment of the new man, including the fixing of his term of office. That would seem to give the Council jurisdiction over the length of the appointee’s term. In the holding cable we have just sent out, we suggested that if the USSR desires a formal recommendation by the Council, the individual should be named as “Secretary General” (not “interim SYG”) and that if the USSR sticks on the interim nature of the appointment, the Security Council members [Page 408] should just meet informally, without an agenda, to reach agreement on the action to be taken in the Assembly.

3. Now that fairly extensive negotiations with the USSR have been held, with a definite narrowing of differences, there is increasing pressure among UN members for a solution based on US-Soviet agreement. This leads me to conclude that, whereas early in the game we might have proceeded in the General Assembly without Soviet agreement to name an interim SYG, we have now reached the point of no return as far as this possibility is concerned.

I frankly suspect that in the last analysis, if the Soviets agree to our other demands but stand fast on seven Under Secretaries, there will be irresistible sentiment in favor of this formula. However, since our agreement is important, I feel we should try to drive as hard a bargain as we can. Although a solution of the problem is indeed urgent, particularly because of the Congo situation, I believe we can afford the investment of two or three more days to try and get as many of these points ironed out as we can.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960–63, 310/10–2561. Confidential. Drafted by William B. Buffum and cleared by Kellermann (EUR) and Van Heuven (L/UNA).
  2. Telegram 1012 to USUN, Document 189.
  3. Not further identified.